Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.
The UK was responsible for 42 of those containers. Malaysia's Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin insisted that she is taking steps to make sure her country does not become a dumping ground for wealthy countries, as the BBC reported.
The UK government said it was working with Malaysian authorities to take back the waste.
"We continue to work with the shipping lines and Malaysian authorities to ensure all waste is brought back as soon as possible," said an Environment Agency spokesman in the UK to the BBC. The spokesman added that the Environment Agency is "working hard to stop illegal waste exports from leaving our shores in the first place."
Since China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, shipments of plastic waste have been rerouted to Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. However, Malaysia and other developing countries are standing up to unwanted, imported garbage, as the AP reported.
In addition to the 150 containers that Malaysia sent back to their country of origin, Malaysia expects to send back another 110 containers by the middle of the year, according to Yeo, as the AP reported.
Yeo added that so far success in sending back trash has removed a total of 4,120 tons of waste from Malaysian ports. Authorities there have stepped up enforcement at key ports to block smuggling of waste and closed more than 200 illegal plastic recycling factories, as the AP reported.
While the UK received back 42 containers, that number was one shy of France's 43 containers of illegal plastic waste sent back. Otherwise, 17 went to the U.S., 11 to Canada, 10 to Spain and the rest to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania, the Environment Ministry said, according to the AP.
"If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on," Yeo told reporters during inspection at a port in northern Penang state, as the AP reported.
From the 110 containers that Malaysia will return in the middle of the year, Yeo said 60 are from the U.S. Canada also has 15 more containers, Japan 14, the UK 9 and Belgium 8, as the AP reported.
Malaysia is the latest in a string of countries that have returned waste to Western countries in the last year. The Philippines and Indonesia returned waste in 2019, as the BBC reported. Waste from Canada sent to the Philippines caused a domestic row between the two countries.
Last year, Yeo also singled out British people for their ignorance about where their plastic waste goes.
"What the citizens of the UK believe they send for recycling is actually dumped in our country," she said, as the BBC reported.A recent Greenpeace report found that plastic waste exported from the U.S. to Malaysia more than doubled in the first seven months of 2018 compared to 2017, as CNN reported.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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